Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Othello
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of The Lion


Ryman Sneed and Faran Tahir
Photo by Scott Suchman
The production of Othello now onstage at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, DC, is solidly acted but seldom achieves transcendence.

In this straightforward version of William Shakespeare's tragedy of deception and jealousy, director Ron Daniels has cast a Pakistani-American actor, Faran Tahir, as the Moor—not an African (or African-American) but a Muslim—and set the action in the time around World War I when the Ottoman Empire was collapsing and the European powers were carving up the Middle East.

Tahir presents a multifaceted Othello: dignified and proud among soldiers and statesmen, robustly playful with Desdemona (Ryman Sneed), and utterly trusting as Iago (Jonno Roberts) sets out to destroy him. The casting of Roberts, an older man with a working-class accent, and Patrick Vaill as a young, slight, rather callow Cassio helps to set up Iago's sense of grievance: Iago has paid his dues where Cassio has not, and someone has to pay for that.

In smaller roles, Merritt Janson sparkles as a self-possessed Emilia, who stands up to her husband Iago until she realizes just how dangerous he is, and Ben Diskant provides comic relief as a very prissy Roderigo.

Daniels and fight director Robb Hunter have created muscular tableaux with their cast on Riccardo Hernandez's austere set, a platform bordered by oil drums on each side and a bank of large fans in the rear wall, Christopher Akerlind's lighting design includes a disorienting row of lights along the rear wall that periodically pierce the haze onstage and shine into the eyes of the audience. Emily Rebholz's costume design is largely built around a neutral palette of off-white and khaki, with a few standout pieces such as Iago's battered leather trench coat and the richly ornamented robes of the courtesan Bianca (Natascia Diaz).

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Othello
February 23rd - March 27th
By William Shakespeare
Roderigo, a gentleman: Ben Diskant
Iago, ensign to Othello: Jonno Roberts
Brabantio, a senator/Lodovico, a general: Rufus Collins
Othello, a Moor, a general in the army: Faran Tahir
Cassio, a lieutenant in the army: Patrick Vaill
The Duke of Venice: Ted van Griethuysen
A Senator: Elan Zafir
Another Senator: Robbie Gay
Desdemona, daughter to Brabantio: Ryman Sneed
Montano, a lieutenant in Cyprus: Gregory Linington
Emilia, wife of Iago: Merritt Janson
Bianca, a courtesan: Natascia Diaz
Soldiers: David Baker, Stephen Elrod, Jackson Knight Pierce, Brian Reisman
Directed by Ron Daniels
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


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